Some complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices may help relieve symptoms of prostate cancer or cancer treatment.
Many men with prostate cancer seek treatments outside of mainstream medicine to help them manage their symptoms. These nontraditional therapies are called complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM.
Many doctors recognize the limits of traditional medicine to ease the symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment. As a result, CAM therapy is an area of active research.
In 2009, an international organization called the Society for Integrative Oncology released a set of guidelines on complementary treatments for cancer. These were written by cancer experts and based on evidence from research. The following sections sum up their recommendations.
If you are thinking about using any complementary treatments, it is important to:
- Discuss them with your doctor first to be sure that they are safe and won’t interfere with other treatment approaches.
- Use CAM therapies along with standard treatments, not instead of them.
A wide range of practices fits under the heading of mind-body therapy, including meditation, biofeedback, and guided imagery. There is good evidence that mind-body therapies can help reduce pain and stress and improve mood and quality of life in people with cancer. Some studies show that they may even help strengthen the immune system. Most mind-body therapies can be safely combined with traditional medical treatments.
Mind-body therapies that have been shown to help people with cancer include:
- Tai chi
- Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing
To get the benefits of any mind-body therapy, it must be practiced regularly.
Manipulative and body-based therapies
Types of massage most often used for cancer include Swedish massage, aromatherapy massage, reflexology, and acupressure. Massage therapy has been found to reduce pain, anxiety, distress, and fatigue in people with cancer. It may also show promise for reducing nausea, but this has not yet been proven.
Massage therapy is generally safe for people with cancer when it is done by a trained therapist. However, care should be taken to avoid deep or intense pressure near cancer lesions, enlarged lymph nodes, or treatment sites. It may be best to find an oncology-trained massage therapist.
Energy therapies include Reiki, healing touch, therapeutic touch, and external qi gong. These therapies are safe and may help reduce stress and improve quality of life. They may also help reduce symptoms, such as pain or fatigue, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.
So far, there is no evidence that energy therapies that use magnetic energy help with either cancer treatment or symptom relief.
There is strong evidence that acupuncture can help relieve cancer-related pain, nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and dry mouth caused by radiation therapy.
Acupuncture is generally safe when performed by a qualified practitioner. However, people with cancer should look for a certified acupuncturist who has experience treating cancer patients.
Biologically based therapies
Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements are very popular among people with cancer. Unfortunately, evidence of their benefits is lacking. There are also many possible problems with these substances.
- They are not regulated the way prescriptions drugs are. Manufacturers are not required to prove that they are either safe or effective before they sell them.
- Some herbs and supplements can cause serious drug interactions when taken with prescription medications.
- They may reduce the effectiveness of other treatments.
- Some herbs, vitamins, and supplements can be dangerous if taken in large doses.
It is important to have an open and frank discussion with your cancer doctor about any herbs, vitamins, or other supplements you take or want to take. Your doctor can help you understand whether the substance is helpful and, if so, how to take it.
To be on the safe side:
- Talk to your doctor before you take any supplement or herb.
- If you are taking an herb or supplement and notice any unusual symptoms, stop taking it right away and call your doctor.